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Big Names Make Push for Tokyo Grand Prix

June 14, 1999

Japan is no stranger to the world of motor sports--automakers like Honda and Toyota and tire maker Bridgestone have long participated in various levels of organized racing. Recently some of the biggest names in Japanese racing have embarked on a project that promises to bolster this presence even further. "Our vision is to hold a 'Tokyo Grand Prix' to showcase the prowess of Japanese motor sports and the strength of our nation's car makers against the backdrop of Tokyo, the nation's capital," says Nobuhide Tachi, driver/racing-team owner and spokesperson for a committee organized to bring a grand prix event to Tokyo.

Big Name Supporters
There are several major categories of auto races. The most well-known of these is the Formula One, an annual set of races held worldwide and featuring the world's fastest race cars with speeds exceeding 360 kilometers (225 miles) per hour. Others include Formula Three, with races held around the world at the national level between cars that reach 264 kilometers (165 miles) per hour, and the American-based CART (championship auto racing teams) races.

Using the F1 Monaco and the F3 Macao grand prix races (generally held on public roads rather than racing tracks) as models, supporters have joined together to promote Japan's first auto race to be run on Tokyo's city streets. In addition to Tachi, committee members include a who's who list of big names in Japanese racing: Satoru Nakajima, Japan's first F1 driver; F1 drivers Aguri Suzuki and Ukyo Katayama; Arrows Grand Prix Team driver Toranosuke Takagi; well-known driver Kazuyoshi Hoshino; and popular singer Masahiko Kondo, who is also a professional driver.

The plan for the Tokyo Grand Prix is to feature an international F3, CART, or GT (Grand Touring Championship) race--an event with somewhat smaller, slower cars that will not be quite as difficult to implement. "Realistically, it would be difficult to hold an F1 race, so instead we are aiming for an event on the scale of an F3 world cup race," says Tachi. Wanting to have the race--any kind of race--ready for its inauguration in 2002, the committee is even considering as an option an international eco-car race. The main site being proposed for the Grand Prix is a 448-hectare area along Tokyo's waterfront known as Rainbow Town. An ongoing development project in this area will make the central Tokyo waterfront the world's largest international communications center. It would be an ideal setting from which to showcase the capital city of Tokyo to the world.

Uphill Race
Before any race can be held, however, there are many obstacles to be overcome. First among these is the need for funding. According to one of the promoters, installation of the track's guardrails, pits, and spectator seating alone would require some 5 billion yen (41.7 million U.S. dollars at 120 yen to the dollar). Raising the necessary capital seems unlikely at present. Another problem is regulatory laws. In the past, GP races have been considered for cities like Beppu in Oita Prefecture and Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture, but none have yet to come to fruition. The main arguments against holding this type of race are the traffic jams that would result from blocked-off city streets, excessive noise, and exhaust fumes.

In an attempt to clear these hurdles, the committee is aggressively enlisting the partnership of high level politicians, while conducting meetings with police and various administrative bodies and local governments.

Reference: Major Grand Prix Races for 1999

Monaco GP
Belgium GP

Long Beach (U.S.A)
Toronto (Canada)
Detroit (U.S.A)
Vancouver (Canada)
Houston (U.S.A)
Surfer's Paradise (Australia)

France F3 Race of Pau
F3 Macao GP
24 Hours of Le Mans (France)

Races in Japan:
F1 Suzuka GP (Mie Prefecture)
CART Motegi (Tochigi Prefecture)
Suzuka 1000 Kilometer (Mie Prefecture)
Fuji Le Mans (Shizuoka Prefecture)
NASCAR Motegi (Tochigi Prefecture)

Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.